Money is one of the key stressors in good economies or bad, so local Premier Members Credit Union is doing what it can to relieve some of the frustration. Andrea Balazs, corporate responsibility and …
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Money is one of the key stressors in good economies or bad, so local Premier Members Credit Union is doing what it can to relieve some of the frustration.
Andrea Balazs, corporate responsibility and sustainability representative for the credit union, said that’s part of the mission behind their financial literacy and charity program Premier Gives, which was founded in 2012.
Balazs started her career as a Premier Credit Union teller in 2006. The credit union boasts more than 66,000 members and $1 billion in assets, spread across twelve full-service retail branch locations and four locations in area high schools.
Her first position was in a branch located in a low-income area.
“A lot of people got angry or frustrated when they didn’t understand their finances and it could be especially difficult when trying to explain why a loan was denied,” she said. “That’s when I started thinking about how to find better ways to explain loan requirements and how people could improve their applications to get approved the next time around.”
The idea for Premier Gives began by primarily talking to employees to find a way to connect to charities that meant something to the employees. Their inspiration led to offering formal financial literacy and transitional programs for people coming off of welfare as well as practical education in high schools.
The group’s financial literacy curriculum grew out of her passion and soon Balazs was presenting at local business LEADS and networking groups.
“Where you start out isn’t where you end up,” she said.
Balazs became instrumental in setting up Premier Gives through United Way. The credit union now supports a wide variety of activities and fundraising events for charitable organizations like United Way, Realities for Children of Boulder County, Junior Achievement and many more through the Premier Gives program.
Balazs said she’s excited about the what the effort has accomplished in the last six years. Since 2012, it’s awarded $140,000 in scholarships.
But it hasn’t been without its challenges, she said.
“There are so many organizations that need help and figuring out who gets the funds is hard,” Balazs says. “I’m very empathetic, so making sure we have a good match and only picking a few winners after reading those applications is tough. How do you decide?” In the end, a committee consisting of community and employee members was created.
Community needs vary, she said. For example, Hope House has been a recipient of funding. It is metro-Denver’s only resource providing free self-sufficiency programs to teen moms, including Residential, GED, and College and Career Programs. Additional supportive services include parenting and healthy relationship classes, life skills workshops and certified counseling, all designed to prepare them for long-term independence.
Other support is offered through the credit union’s annual scholarship program, known as the Premier Members Scholarship. Premier Members Scholarship focuses on organizations that provide educational opportunities to at-risk youth.
Getting support matters
It’s part of her way of giving back. Balazs recalls her own need for support growing up.
“Even though both my parents were teachers, I had a lot of adversity as a youth,” she said. “I was never a 4.0 student and being able to overcome my own adversity required resilience.”
The key to overcoming obstacles is to never give up, she says.
“Have confidence and believe in yourself. Know you can make it,” she said. “I was one of those students under the radar. I needed a leg up. I needed the support.”
It’s never too late to seek the support you need.
“Be patient. If you develop yourself as a person and if you develop your skills and abilities, when the door opens, you will be ready to walk through it. Even if it doesn’t seem like anything at the time,” Balazs said.
To find out more about Premier Gives and scholarship opportunities or the network of giving, contact Balazs at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303 657-7000, ext. 7304. You can also visit www.pmcu.org.
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